Cruel Intentions: The ‘90s Musical comes to Broadway in Chicago


(Photo courtesy of Carleigh Rinefierd)

The cast of “Cruel Intentions: The ‘90s Musical” poses on stage. The show from April 2 through April 14.

Ashley Capoot, Reporter

The ‘90s are making a comeback, and it’s not just because mom jeans and hair clips are trendy again. As the tour director of “Cruel Intentions: The ‘90s Musical,” Northwestern alumnus Kenneth Ferrone (Communication ‘04) looks forward to bringing the era of flip phones and film cameras back to Chicago.

Based off the 1999 film “Cruel Intentions,” this musical adaptation uses ‘90s pop and rock hits to tell the story of high school students Sebastian Valmont, Kathryn Merteuil and Annette Hargrove as they navigate the game of temptation and love in the Upper East Side. “Cruel Intentions: The ‘90s Musical” runs from April 2 through April 14 in Chicago’s Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place.

Northwestern alumna Betsy Stewart (Communication ’14) who plays Annette Hargrove in the production, said taking on the role is both exciting and challenging.

“I just love how sure of herself she is and how smart she is, yet we get to go on her journey of being a teenager and questioning what you believe,” Stewart said. “I think that’s really fun getting to play her arc.”

Stewart said since the script is very similar to that of the original movie, the music and the choreography add life and bring a newfound energy to the show.

“Cruel Intentions: The ‘90s Musical” features music ranging from artists like Boyz II Men and the Goo Goo Dolls to *NSYNC. Stewart said the music complements the youthful storyline nicely.

“Because we’re playing teenagers who are going through all these changes and feeling all these feelings for the first time, there’s no better way to express and show their inner world and bring it to life than with 90’s pop and rock songs,” Stewart said.

Northwestern alumnus Zach Spound (Communication ’11), is the music supervisor, orchestrator and arranger for the show.

Once Spound had the rights to use the music, he was able to modify the lyrics and melodies in order to fit them into the show’s storyline.

“The artists, from (the) Backstreet Boys to (the) Goo Goo Dolls, were very generous in letting us use their music to help tell the story,” Spound said. “I think the most challenging part is taking lyrics that weren’t meant for the theater and amplifying them in a way that works for a dramatic narrative.”

Ferrone said he was responsible for bringing the show to life on larger stages by expanding the cast size, adding new costumes and reimaging many of the musical sequences to fill the space of the stage.

This musical originally debuted in small cabaret venues in Los Angeles and New York City. Now touring in 21 different cities, Ferrone said he wanted to elevate the entertaining essence from the first shows and translate it to “a more formal proscenium theater.”

“For the first time, the entire show has a full set, an intricate lighting design,” Ferrone said. “It really feels like a great throwback to a ‘90s MTV, VMA show when you walk into the space.”

The cast only had about two weeks to rehearse before they began incorporating technical components — such as lighting and sound cues — into the show. Ferrone said the cast’s drive and work ethic allowed the musical to come together quickly.

Stepping back from the director’s chair, Ferrone added that he is looking forward to seeing how different groups of audiences react to the show.

“The final elements are the audiences,” Ferrone said. “The exciting thing about going from town to town is to see how different audiences respond, what different demographics and different parts of the country take away from the show, and what they home in on.”

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Twitter: @ashleycapoot